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WCES 1996 Show Report

  It's 7:15 am and i'm sleepy-sleepy in my bed. i awake with the phone a-ringin'...

"Ehem. Er, um, h-h-hello?" i said still half conscience.

"If you build it, er, um, If you go to Vegas, you will..." this raspy-voiced dude said to me. Like a drug dealer talking to a junkie he continued, "Ya' wanna see what I got for ya', you must go to the Promised Land. This stuff I got here is...

...j u s t   w h a t   y o u   b e e n   l o o k i n g   f o r." 

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," i said with skepticism as i began to wake up... Sheesh, after all my years i feel i've virtually done it all. Planars, electrostatics, horns, cones, tubes, and solid-state. Solid-state that is claimed to sound like tubes? Tubes that are claimed to sound like solid-state. Yep, been there, done a few of those. Class A, Class AB, Class D, Ultralinear, Triode, Ultralinear with a way to switch it to triode... My mind began racing. So whatsup this guys sleeve??? Did the guy have some Plutonium powered amplifier stashed away in there??? Maybe some new speakers that use helium??? Hey, if the speakers bite the big one, at least we could breathe the helium and sing all those ol' Chipmunk songs together %-) .

So i said to 'em, "Vegas, gotcha. Who are you?" and then the phone mysteriously went dead!!! Ok, so i went to the WCES in Vegas and boy did i see some goodies there that made my mouth water!!! Ok, guys, wrap it up. i'LL TAKE IT ALL!!! Huh??? Pay for it?!?!? Er, um, well, i, er, um, i gots to go!!! Here's what i saw before they kicked me outta Vegas...

Tubes?!?!?! You hanging 'round the flea market again Steven???

Yep, i love tubes. Whether you hate 'em or love 'em, they seemed to be everywhere in Vegas!!! First thing i saw, and how could you miss these babies, were the Shoreline 800 ($100,000) by Rainbow Electronics. This amp looked like it would kick MY butt. If memory serves me correctly these mono blocks weighed in at over a ton even though they used only four output tubes. This fan cooled amp was gloss black, had a window in the front of it with mirrors surrounding the tubes. This window actually reminded me of a mini fireplace (no pun intended) and had three meters on it let you know that things are running well within their rated operation. Hmmmm, four output tubes... So ya' think i'm talking some lil ol' 50 watt mono block? Nope! The manufacturer claimed output is 800 watts rms and 6000 watts peak!!! Just as i was about to see how it cooked marshmallows, this guy saw what i was up to and booted me outta the room.

So i wandered for a while 'till i saw this cool lady i met here in cyberspace. It was none other than EveAnna Manley!!! David Manley, always know for his stash of cool new toys, told me about his new DAC and amplifier. This DAC used the "state of the art" HDCD chip set and was a true dual mono design. 4 inputs with one being optical and even a phase switch were among the goodies it offered. Full 20 bit resolution too!!! And what's more, it had tubes!!! David also showed me this powerhouse of a tube amp. This puppy called the MB 1250 and has, you guessed it, 1250 watts of power!!! If there ever was an amplifier/space heater, this one's my pick o' the day. Too bad i had already eaten all my marshmallows :-( .

With all those high wattage juices running through my veins, i staggered into the WAVAC room. 

One word here folks... elegant! Kinda like the yummy pheasant under glass, all of their single-ended tube amplifiers had a laboratory glass canopy to protect the tubes to add to the visual beauty of the amplifier itself!!! WAVAC is a Japanese based company that uses some very high quality and custom made parts sourced from among the best available. For instance, they use custom-wound TANGO transformers (TANGO is very well respected by virtually all single-ended tube manufacturers). The tube sockets are made outta solid Teflon and are assembled with heavy gold plated phosphor bronze contacts. For example, their model 805 chassis is milled outta a 60mm thick block of aerospace-grade aluminum and is finished in lustrous champagne-gold. The model 805 ($45,000) uses, what else, 805 tubes and has a rated output of 45 watts per channel at less than .2% thd. They were also showing their model 4304 ($22,000) which uses a Western Electric 437A input tubbie, a 6L6GC driver stage and a ITT 4304CB output tube. Basically, the 4304CB tube is a European version of the Western Electric 304. The 300B based amp ($12,000) they had was a sight for sore eyes. Call me sentimental if ya' want, but the 300B tube has always had a special place in my home, er, um, heart. But where AM i gonna find some reeeeally high quality 300B tubes in 1996?!?!?

"Hey kid," said the dude who's voice i began to recognize. HEY!!! It was the guy who woke my lazy-butt up!!! As he discretely looked around for the cops, he went on to say "Ya want some brand new Western Electric 300B's???" 

"BRAND NEW WESTERN ELECTRIC 300B's!!!" i exclaimed. With my mouth a-waterin'... Heck, i started to shake with excitement. Once he calmed me down and the coast was clear i whispered to 'em, "Just a pair of those fabled WE300Bs can cost a dude a months pay." "Tell you what kid, $350 each and i'll even give you a guarantee on 'em". He showed me some very impressive pictures of the care that's taken to make these new WE300Bs. He even had pictures of the "aging process" involved too. That only made me want 'em more! As i opened my wallet to check out my fundage sit-chee-ay-shun, a moth flew outta it!!! All i could find was an old bus transfer and a condom that has been there for around two years waitin' for that "special moment". "Well," i explained to him, "all my money was taken by these dudes who had, like, all this forbidden vinyl and..." Next thing i know, all i was holdin' was a few data sheets and my moth eaten wallet :-{(+ . MAN, i hope to get a set of these babies. Simply said, the new WE300Bs were at the show and doggone it, i aint got none of 'em. In utter despair my journey continued.

Substitution, mass confusion, WE300B tubes inside my head. --- Mott the Hoople

The folks at Quadric saw me whimpering in the halls and attempted to brightened my day by showing me this cool preamplifier. Sure 'nuff, these guys had a 300B based amp called the MT-10 ($3,595) which used a regulated filament supply for the 300B, solid state rectifiers and choke filtering for the power input, gold plated RCA jacks... Though what REALLY caught my eye was their American designed, made in Taiwan, preamplifier. You want variety? OK, how 'bout a preamplifier that can use all sorts of tubes in it and needs ZERO adjustments when you make tube substitution!!! The Quadric F-1 ($2,995) offers three inputs, balance and volume control, and features auto-bias and auto-filament voltage capability. You can use so many different tube in it that the literature in front of me kinda looks like a big ol' eye examination chart!!! Heck, you can even use four totally different types of tube!!! ???Bad news??? Well, this design also uses, typically, 28db of feedback (though the amount of feedback can vary with different tubes). FEEDBACK i thought to myself as i suddenly woke up from my WE300B stupor. My feelings are that feedback should be used very sparingly. Your mileage may vary, see store for details... 

There is another...

Enter Viac. Viac has been making some tubes of their own that can be used in place of a 300B and offer more wattage too!!! Not only are they making some well respected tubes of their own like the VV30B, VV52B and the VV300B, they are now offerin' some mighty fine looking amplifiers too :-{)+ . Specifically, their model VV36/96 using one of their VV30B tube (or a standard 300B) and a 6SN7GT they claim a whopping 15 watts per channel. i didn't catch the street price of this unit, yet they did say that it's price will be very competitive. It'd be great to find someone doing a 300B based non-kit amplifier for under, say, $1500.

It keeps going and going and going and going...

No, not that drum wielding bunny, but a new totally battery powered preamplifier by an Italian company called MTD Electronics. Feast your eyes on the Coalescence my friends (as i hold up this cool picture in front of my computer screen). This cool new toy uses an external and two internal battery supplies to juice up your musical pleasure. The pair of batteries in the main chassis is for the tubes anode current and the battery located in the external power chassis is for the filament. This preamplifier uses of four E88CC tubes, three batteries, has two main outputs, one Alps pot, and a partridge in a pair tree, er, um, a chassis which is made from pure aluminum10mm thick. It features three inputs and is rated at 12 volts maximum output at 0.4% distortion with a signal to noise ratio of more than 94db. Can you see it, doesn't it look coooooool (as i hold up a picture of it in front of my computer screen)??? Street price should be about $6,000 according to their representative. Heck, it even won the "Design and Engineering" award for the 1996 WCES!!! If i was a rich man... 

Live music RULES!!! IT RULES!!! Um huh huh um huh---- One of my mottos

And best sound at the show goes to... Mesa Engineering!!! Yep, the same dudes that for sooooo many years have brought us musicians cool tube stuff has decided to join the lunatic fringe (of which i'm a card carrying member). Tim Brisson was playing his lead gee-tar through one of Mesa's gee-tar products :-{)+ . After diggin' up the live tunes, i asked if they'll have some drums for next year. After all, i'd love to play for a while for all the cool Dudettes/Dudes at the show. Anyway, Mesa did have this "your wish is my command" amplifier called the Baron. You want the output to be, say, all pentode or all triode. Maybe you'd like a triode/pentode, or a 2/3 pentode. How about we instead wish for 2/3 triode??? What?!?!? You want more?!?!? OK, well throw in all that and also include four various settings for negative feedback (0, 3, 6, and 11dB) and even Tandem State Imaging (huh?). How's THAT grab ya' folks???

Tandem State Imaging is, like, what they call this tunable soundstaging system. This thingie works by actually a c q u i r i n g (versus simulating) different circuit configurations, which Mesa feels are the source of many different sonic characteristics. Sounds cool so far. Now i have seen the light. If you use the Mesa amp with the Quadric F-1 preamplifier you could have, lemme see here as i use my trusty ol' calculator, virtually millions of different types of music reproduction possibilities!!! Audiophile neurosis here we come %-) . Actually, the Baron just may be what the doctor ordered. Heck, this amp alone can be a zero feedback 65 wpc triode teaser to a eight db feedback 150 wpc pentode powerhouse!!! What's more is that it's a true dual mono amplifier (built on one chassis) all the way down to its two power cables. So maybe i've been bitten by the single-ended "bug", though at a retail price of $3,395, this yummies ready to kick some axe and looks as solidly built as a tank!!!

How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat? --- Pink Floyd

Well, how can we enjoy all these toys unless we find a "date" for 'em??? And with that said... Best speaker most likely to be in Pink Floyds "The Wall" video. The envelope please. Thank you darling. The winner is, and by unanimous vote, EURYTHMIE II by Jadis. With all this talk of low wattage amplifiers, we need some sensitive speaker to "rock our world". Enter the Eurythmie II. A four way system that's offers a claimed sensitivity of 96-105 db depending on amplification (??huh??). Well, i'll avoid the "depending on amplification" and go right to the jist of these speakers. Then again, i'm sure we've all seen the picture of these things so basically i'll tell ya' that they were hooked up to the Jadis 300 B Triode Amp. WATT??? More zero feedback 300B based amplifiers?!?!? Since i'm tryin' to avoid any judgments on the music reproduction ability of stuff i heard. After all (and i can't stress this fact enough), the size/shape of the rooms at the show left quite a bit to be desired. Then again, the reproduced music a-playin' in this room made me realize that all those reviews of the Jadis stuff was probably just a tip of the musical iceberg. Let's just say, it was smooooth. Yeah smoooth, um huh huh um huh. This system sounded, like, cool or something um huh huh um huh.

3-Wedge Satellitensystem bestuckt mit den spharischen Kugelwellenhornern.

HUH??? Far-fig-new-gen??? Kraftwerk??? Porsche :-) !!! Well, for those of us who don't speak German, at least we can enjoy their fine tuned goodies. Enter zee Avantgarde Acoustics four way, three horn, 60 watt solid-state self powered subschnauser speaker system. Let's say you got, oh, an eight watt single-ended triode amp, a hankering for what may be the most awesome lookin' speaker i have ever laid eyes on, and a stash of 30,000 dead presidents burning a hole in your pocket. Well, beauty may be in the eyes of the beholder, though the way speakers reproduce music is what matters, right??? Time alignment??? Phase alignment??? Deep bass???

YOU LIKE YOUR MUSIC REEEEALLY LOUD!!!!!!!!

Comin' right up!!! Hey, when you got a 105dB/W/m sensitive speaker, even a little ol' eight watt single-ended amplifier can hit lease-breaking volume levels :-{)+ . i have tried FIVE times to type out a description of the way these speakers look. Since i don't have a scanner here, can i simply say that what you'd be looking at would be three megaphones of different sizes. The smallest would be about 12 inches in diameter, the midrange horn "only" two and a half feet, with the largest being, well, really big. This speaker is a must hear (and see) if you have a dealer near you. That's all i'll say. Seek and yee shall find.

Great googley-moogley!!! -- Frank Zappa

And if 105dB aint enough for ya', how 'bout 107dB??? Dr. Bruce Edgar, known for his famous-among-the-SE-camp Edgarhorns, was showing his new System 50 speakers. Here's another horn speaker system that's larger than my refrigerator folks. Dr. Edgar uses a sculpted hyperbolic-exponential bass horn which contains a fifteen inch driver and a Tractrix horn with a high quality compression horn. This two way system uses a simple 6 db crossover to give minimal interference with the signal that must pass through it. Simply said, this speaker is another unique lookin', very efficient horn system that a picture would be better than a thousand words. If you got the room (preferably a very big one) we got the beer, er, um, speakers. But what i was hopin' to find a relatively small, under $1500 speaker that will work with an eight watt single-ended triode amp and have bass... (more on that later)

Back to the Future

Pushing and shoving my way through the Las Vegas Convention Center i fell and schmacked my head on a pole %-{)+ . While i was out, a vision came to me... A vision of the fabled Marantz 8B to be precise. A good condition original 8B can be traded in the Japanese used market for upwards of $4,000 folks!!! And that's for ??just?? some ol' 1960's American made amplifier. OK, it's a classic if there there ever was one in my humble opinion. Then upon wakin' up i discover that this wasn't a dream after all!!! Well slap me silly (or just slap me)!!! Marantz has duplicated the original 8B to the point of even painstakingly seekin' out the original suppliers of the parts that were used for the original. The dude at Marantz said it should be ready for prime time in June and will retail for $3,800. He also handed me a sheet which sez that the Model 9 amplifier ($4,200) and the Model 7 preamplifier ($3,800) will also be available in June. As the sayin' goes, history repeats itself. Hopefully polyester pants won't, but tubes and horns?!?!?! What's next???

"i just love his big 10 inch record of my favorite blues" --- Dana Gillespie

Well, maybe not 10 inches, but how 'bout 12 inches???

 

Virgin

 

Super high quality, 

 

Groovin'... 

100% analogue music on vinyl!!! First tubes, then horn speakers, now VINYL?!?!? After all, without cool music to be reproduced, why would i be at the show, let alone in this hobby in the first place?!?!?! Cool dude Chad Kassem representing Acoustic Sounds had LOTS of vinyl :-) . Then we had Thomas Enright with Mobile Fidelity and their assorted yummies. Add those show rooms/coolest of cool dudes with Adam Roper of Classic Records and the honorable Motohiko Takawa, the chief producer at King Records, and what do you get??? VINYL FEVER!!! What can i say other than there IS a G-D, and he showed me more new vinyl than i had ever hoped to see in one building. Needless to say, i came home with Deccas, FFRRs, Mo Fi's, Living Stereos, Verves, Analogue Productions, and on and on and on. The dudes at Classic Records even gave me a set of drink coasters.

Not just any OL' coasters, but Living Stereo coasters at that!!! You see, when a records is not pressed up to their standards, they cut out the center label out and reuse the vinyl in non 100% virgin vinyl pressings. So when you stop by my humble abode, you can have your very own Saint-Saens "Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22" drink coaster. Though if you want a bit more action, i'll give ya' the Little Feat "Aint Had Enough Fun" coaster.

With all these vinyl dudes here, i couldn't help but ask how's business. Well, vinyl IS making a big comeback folks, though they NEED your support. If you want to see more cool yummies on vinyl, ya' gotta support what's out there now. And pretty please, give generously.

 

(Said in a radio announcers voice):

SUNDAY, S U N D A Y , S U N D A Y!!! MONSTER TRUCK MADNESS!!! See Steve the "Audio Idiot" take on Sony and announce a few more speaker manufacturers. All that and more... SUNDAY!!!

Goodnight Gracie... wherever you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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